Recently I was interviewed for the International Women’s Day Business Leader of the Year Awards and I was asked for my answer to a question that I have been thinking a lot about lately. The question was “What does work-life balance mean to me and how do I manage it, being a director of my business as well as a single mum?”
Honestly, it has been as much a struggle for me as it is for any other single parent but my neuroscience work has made me more conscious of the need for balance than ever before.
Why is work-life balance important?
Most working single parents are under huge amounts of stress every day and we know that apart from the health issues, stress can cause, it also affects our ability to function at home, in relationships and at work.
There is a thin borderline between the kind of stress that stimulates performance and the kind which kills it. That’s where neuroscience research has proven so valuable.
The 2010 summit at the NeuroLeadership Institute revealed that there are three factors the brain needs to order to function at its optimum:
- Moderate stress
2. Good nourishing sleep
3. Positive affect (a smile, positive feedback)
As all these areas are linked, targeting any one of these areas for improvement has the benefit of affecting the others.
For me, work life balance is about reducing my levels of stress. If I can do that, I know that I will sleep better and feel better. I know that my mind will be clearer and I will feel happier. That has been my target and, in my work, I concentrate on educating my clients to take the same approach.
To reduce stress levels, modern organisations have to change the way they work and as individuals, we need to ask for the working conditions we need, even if they don’t fit the traditional workplace model.
Neuroscience has proven that happy people are more likely to be actively engaged in whatever they do. To be happy, we need to reduce stress, yet traditional organisations focus on targets and deadlines which are stressors. Instead they should be looking for ways to create an environment which nurtures the brain so it works at optimum levels. That’s how deadlines will be met in a healthy way.
If I can teach my clients to understand how to make their brains function properly, it will help them achieve a sustainable level of performance at work and a much happier and well-balanced life at home.
How do I manage my work-life balance? I strive to create the best conditions for my brain to work under, knowing that it will then allow me to go out and enjoy my family life without restriction.